A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 484 – Aladdin (1992)

Aladdin (1992) – June 27th, 2011

The first time I saw this movie was in the theater. Amazingly, one year my mother allowed my brother and I to pick a movie each to go to for our birthdays. Normally, movies in theaters were a forbidden world for us, to be attended only when visiting friends whose parents didn’t mind going to theaters. So the opportunity to go to a theater twice? Holy crap. I don’t know what I picked. No recollection at all. Whatever it was, it wasn’t as memorable as this was, but my birthday came after my brother’s so he got first pick. Oh well. I still got to go.

Now, this is a Disney movie, which means it’s a severely altered version of a classic folktale. It’s not a folktale I’m as familiar with as I am with some of the other things they’ve done (and yes, I still refuse to watch Disney’s Hercules), but it’s pretty obvious that this is not traditional. No classic folktale stars anyone remotely like Robin Williams, after all. The closest I can think of to his particular brand of manic energy would be how I normally think of Loki. But we’re not in Scandinavia in this story. We’re in the Middle East, telling a story about a street thief who gets his hands on a lamp containing a genie.

Visually, this is a gorgeous movie. It uses a combination of 2D hand drawn characters and 3D rendered backgrounds and for the most part that works very nicely. There are a few bits during a daring escape from a collapsing cave where it’s obvious the folks at Disney wanted audiences to know how fancy their 3D rendering tools were, but it’s not obtrusive otherwise. I admit, I do like the old 2D animation with something a little deeper behind it. Ironically, it makes the 2D animation pop more, which is pretty neat in my opinion. But on top of that the movie has a lovely color scheme, full of rich jewel tones. Sure, the red = bad, blue = good thing has been done to death, but it’s played well here. It’s just flat out a pretty movie. I especially love all the transparency effects that are done with veils and smoke and the like. I could put this movie on mute and just watch it for the visuals and be pleased by it. But then I’d miss out on Robin Williams.

Let’s be honest here: I watch this movie for Williams. The visuals are amazing and I do like Jasmine’s independent attitude, but Robin Williams is at the heart of this movie and without him it just wouldn’t shine the way it does. Now, I’m not talking RV or Patch Adams Robin Williams. I’m talking early Robin Williams. Live standup Robin Williams. Radio broadcast Good Morning Vietnam Robin Williams. There’s a great early Williams show that I haven’t seen in years and which is apparently not available on DVD at this time and I found a laserdisc version for sale on eBay but alas, we lack a laserdisc player. And he is wild in it. And that is what I think of when I watch this movie. You can tell he improvised a ton and you can also tell that there was no way some of this stuff couldn’t be used. But much as I love his performance, let’s face it, it was not intended for kids to get. Groucho Marx, Peter Lorre, Arsenio Hall, Ed Sullivan, Jack Nicholson and more I can’t even name or remember to name, and they’re good impressions made better by the animation. But what seven year old knows who Peter Lorre was? Still, I’m not complaining. Because I do indeed love Robin Williams.

By far the musical highlight for me is the introduction of Aladdin as Prince Ali, which is sung mostly by Robin Williams. It’s a hugely fun number featuring tons of ridiculous lyrics and visuals and Williams delivers the whole thing perfectly. There are a couple of other fun numbers, but for the most part the ones that stick with me are the Prince Ali song and A Whole New World. The former because it’s awesome and the latter because it is precisely the sort of song that sticks in my head and makes me renew my vow to avoid Disney movies. It’s a wistful power ballad that melds with Part of Your World in my head to form a sort of ur-earworm. And that is what South Part: Bigger, Longer and Uncut was parodying with Up There. Which gets immediately added to the mix so that in my mind I see Satan riding on a magic carpet and combing his hair with a fork. Yeah. Like I said, this is why I avoid Disney movies.

So Aladdin meets Princess Jasmine when she’s snuck out of the palace to experience life outside the confines of being a princess. He saves her when she breaks the law without realizing it and for his trouble the evil Grand Vizier, Jafar, grabs him to help with a scheme to gain access to the magical lamp. Aladdin ends up with the lamp and a magic carpet, wishes to become a prince and then there’s a parade! Of course Jafar manages to ruin Aladdin’s plans to woo the princess (well, Jafar and Aladdin’s inept attempts at being suave). He nabs the lamp, wishes for lots of power and wealth, and you can guess that they manage to turn the tables on him and all live happily ever after. As plots go it’s not the most complicated of stories. And the lessons it’s imparting aren’t complicated either. Be true to yourself, be honest with those you care about, give people the freedom to live their own lives. I can get behind all three of those.

What I can’t get behind are the plot holes. Leaving aside the fact that I have never seen a non-evil Grand Vizier in any movie ever (as a friend of mine mentioned, it seems to be a perk of the position), there are some issues with the plot. Much as I admire Jasmine’s insistence that she be allowed to marry who she wants, when she wants, if she wants, the whole movie revolves around Aladdin trying to convince her to marry him. And the whole plot point that the law says she must marry a prince? The movie hinges on it. Apparently she’s been tossing princes out on their rears for quite some time and her father is now frantic about getting her married off by her birthday or… um… it’s never made clear, I don’t think. The law says she has to marry a prince by her upcoming birthday “or else”. And then at the end the Sultan is all “Whatever, I make the law! Marry whoever you want!” If you loved your daughter so much, genius, why didn’t you fix that law in the beginning when it was so clearly an issue? And even disregarding that whole deus ex machina sort of ending, there’s the bit with the genie and Aladdin’s last wish. Why does he have to use his last wish for the genie? Sure, he promised, but why not wish himself a prince to satisfy the law (or wish for the law to change) then hand off the lamp to Jasmine and have her wish the genie free? All fixed! It’s the sort of set of plot points that sets my teeth on edge.

All in all, though, I do enjoy the movie. Plot issues and earworms aside, it’s beautiful to watch and it’s got Robin Williams. Apparently they had a ton of extra material from Williams’ recording sessions, not all of which was appropriate for a Disney movie. Oh, how I wish for some of that stuff to leak, because I would love to hear it. Unlikely, I suppose, so I’ll have to be content with what’s actually in the movie. And what’s in the movie is really a lot of fun. Added to the great animation and visuals, it makes for fun viewing. Just beware the earworm and don’t step in any plot holes.

Advertisements

June 27, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. I have a special place in my heart for this movie, because I saw it just after it opened, in an old-fashioned fancy theater in NYC — being 12, I was starstruck just being in NYC, and everything was an Experience. I’d never seen such a funny, vivacious animated movie. For years afterwards, I put the songs on mix tapes.

    Even so, I watched “A Friend Like Me” the other day and couldn’t believe how irritated I was. When I was a kid, I loved Robin Williams’ complete mania, not realizing that it was composed of pure cocaine and impressions. Now the whole routine is just too much. I’ve heard more than one comic do an impression of Williams’ routines with all their impressions, and it was much funnier. I still do like Williams, though, for all he’s put us through, and “Prince Ali” is still terrific.

    Comment by A. | June 28, 2011 | Reply


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: